Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Memorial Day Weekend

We knew that Memorial Day Weekend had the potential to be really difficult this year. Ryann died on May 29 last year, Sunday morning of the holiday weekend. We decided early on to plan an abundance of fun things and quiet times in order to allow us to get through the weekend however we ended up needing to in the moment. This year May 29 fell on a Tuesday, which meant a very long holiday weekend for us.

I happened to have a credit with Southwest Airlines that needed to be used by the end of July. This trip has been rescheduled and rerouted numerous times. It was originally to Phoenix in December for a half-marathon, but then Clifton put the kabosh on that. Then Maryland for a graduation, but a family illness popped up instead. Finally Jared and I decided I should pop out to New Jersey to visit our long-lost friends from Walla Walla who are expecting their first baby in July. I've never before made such a spontaneous short trip, and it was invigorating. Laura and I enjoyed shopping and munching and lounging for two, comparing symptoms and worries and heartburn, while Matthew protectively buzzed around his house that now contained two pregnant ladies.

We had to laugh at our matching stripes and bellies.

I spent Friday evening through Sunday afternoon with them and it was the most relaxing weekend I've had in a while. We hung out at the beach and listened to the waves. We battled the crowds in Ikea. We trolled the Outlet stores for baby clothes. But by the time Sunday afternoon rolled around I was ready to head out. I could feel the 29th getting closer and wanted Jared, myself, and Clifton to all be home together.

Morning tea and a comfy outfit for Clifton.

Airport pizza and the most enormous rice crispie treat known to man.
It must have been a full 5x5 inch cube! And it was insanely good.

Somehow I don't have any pictures from Monday. We had another treat of a visit with a Walla Walla friend. This one was Sarah from Assumption in Walla Walla. She and I would frequently do the music together at mass and she watched Ryann for us a time or two. Sarah drove in Monday morning and back out early Tuesday morning. We spent the day lounging by the pool and then headed out for a Thai dinner at Blue Orchid and dessert at Bread and Cup (get their bread pudding). We were going to attempt to fit in a game of late-night bowling, but both of the alleys were closed due to it being a holiday.

In the butterfly tent.

Tuesday was the 29th. We relaxed at home for a while. Jared made a delicious fritatta and we watched an episode of Frasier. We looked through our IPhoto album and shared memories and laughs and a few tears. While I was in the shower, Jared posted one of the pieces that was played at Ryann's funeral to Facebook and watched snippets from the funeral itself.

Once we were ready to go, we headed out to the zoo. The Lincoln Zoo is a special place for us. It's where we planned to go the day that Ryann died instead. We were looking forward to showing her the animals and digging in the sandpits. Of course, we didn't make it to the zoo that day. We decided that we would visit the zoo with all of our close friends and family after we buried her. We drove straight from the cemetery to the zoo. I was a bit concerned over how the zoo would feel about such a large, somber crowd milling around a children's zoo. My Mom had called ahead to give them a head's up, just so that they wouldn't wonder about all the suits and dresses. When we got there, they asked if we were the group from the little girl's funeral. They waved us straight on through the gates and said how sorry they were. It was one of the unexpected kindnesses from strangers that touched us in those days afterwards. We've been back to the Lincoln Zoo many times since then. We can't wait to bring our other children to the zoo. In subsequent visits it has become so obvious how the Lincoln Zoo's mission truly is to children. I've heard some people complain that it's too tiny, it's pointless, there's nothing impressive. Especially when the Omaha Zoo is only an hour away. And I love the Omaha Zoo, but in Lincoln you can pop in with your kids to say 'Hi' to the penguins and then run on about your day. You can make an afternoon of it and see all of the animals without running into a meltdown due to missing a nap. The Zoo runs summer camps from ages 3 and up. They have volunteer positions starting with young children. They have hands on opportunities and feeding spots and creature talks and a sandpit to excavate bones. And they have a brick walkway leading to the butterfly tent with bricks that are each dedicated to family members who have died. The Lincoln Zoo is truly a Children's Zoo. It is their mission. It is their passion. And I love them for it.

Nutmeat tacos and a falafel wrap.

After the zoo, we stopped by Maggie's Wraps, down in the Haymarket. We ate out on the sidewalk in the shade and talked and relaxed. It was delicious. Maggie's has a great menu for people who are vegan or gluten-free and uses all local ingredients.

From the Haymarket we popped over to the Capitol. We walked around the view areas on the 14th floor and peered at landmarks across town. Then we headed back down to the main floor and found an open courtyard balcony to sit and read in.

Finally we drove back down to Collegeview to get some flowers from our usual florist. She has an adorable old shopdog who greets everyone at the door. We stopped by the local library branch and sat in the Children's department where Ryann's mind was blown on her last Friday. Then we took the flowers out to her grave and told her how much we love and miss her.

We both had a great day. A wondeful day. I know we were both thinking how much better it would have been if we could have shared it with Ryann. But that's not possible, so we succeeded in the next best thing. We spent time with friends and each other. We took deep breaths, walked in the fresh air, and ate good food. We allowed ourselved to feel the strong web of our support system and to know that they ached right along with us. Thank you.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

One Year Ago Today

It's been exactly one year since we lost our little girl. One year since our world changed completely. One year to learn how to cope, how to breathe, how to keep moving. It's unbelievable that it's already been a year. In one heartbeat it seems like she was just running around the house demanding that Daddy pick up her books and read to her. In the next it seems like it's been an eternity.

Today we will spend the day remembering Ryann. We will walk through the zoo, explore the Capitol, walk next to Holmes Lake. We will visit her grave and tell her how much we miss her and how we wish she were here to meet her little brother. In the evening we'll return home and will miss the constant motion  that she injected into it. We will miss wrestling her into her pajamas and reading her favorite books. Our memories have become our most cherished possession.

Day to day we are doing well. We are so happy and excited to have Clifton. I am beyond blessed to have Jared. We make plans and enjoy our days and have fun. But today, we remember what we have lost.

(Please forgive the photo dump)



Sunday, May 20, 2012

Ryann's Garden

I've never been a gardener. When my sister and I were kids, we each had a large vegetable garden that we were responsible for. The gardens clearly showed the effects of my sister's love of bugs and dirt and plants and my complete apathy. Sure, I loved running out and finding produce, but the dirty work that required was definitely not something I enjoyed. I did enjoy building, wrecking, and then patching the mud dams my sister and I continually built on the edge of our gardens.

After Jared and I got married, I tried planting a pot of nasturtiums. They grew wildly in our window, but they never bloomed. Possibly due to the sporadic watering and constant cat-trampling they endured. I didn't care too much.

When we moved to our little house in Oregon and had our own little yard and a crazy little girl who  enjoyed it so much, I wanted to plant things. I wanted to show her the growing tomatoes and the blooming flowers. I wanted to use our fresh herbs in our food for her to taste and smell. And they grew. They all grew and thrived and were completely and wholeheartedly enjoyed, even the tomatoes which were constantly having their fruit ripped off by little fingers and stuffed into a waiting mouth.

We took the flower pots with us when we moved. Sadly the herb garden and tomatoes had to stay. But the flowers were special. Ryann had planted them with me, her very first hands-on gardening experience. Which included a sneakily gained mouthful of potting soil. So we loaded the pots into the UHaul and brought them to NE with us.

They lasted through half the summer and then dried up. It was probably the lack of water. I forgot they were on the deck. I had no little one to share them with and didn't care much anymore.

But this spring I've wanted to plant again. We bought herbs for the window boxes and tomatoes for pots. We tried saving three flowers that were given to us, but didn't have enough dirt at the time to fully pot them. So I used the matted, clumped up dirt from Ryann's dead flowers. All of the gifted flowers survived, although one is barely hanging on. But I noticed a few small sprouts shooting up around the flagging plant. At first I though they were random weeds that had blown into the pot. Then I realized that they had been in the soil all along. They are the long-suffering survivors of Ryann's flowers. The flowers we planted together and brought across the country. The flowers I let die last summer after I lost my little gardener. They've sprouted again and they look like they're planning to stay.

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Doll for Clifton

Jared and I are not big on gender roles. We're not blind to the fact that men and women are different creatures. It's especially obvious right now. I have hormones coursing through my body and affecting my every moment that Jared will never fully understand and certainly never experience. Natural gender differences are a fact of life and although they don't always hold true across the board, there are generalities that exist. That is fine and we find these differences to be intriguing and wonderful.

What we do balk against are the gender roles that have been placed on each of us by society. And although we have yet to parent a boy, I find it hard to believe that this 'boys are wild' mentality is completely nature and not in large part nurture, whether conscious or not. Okay, once kids hit puberty, sure. I completely believe that there are huge differences between boys and girls. But until then? I tend to think that many of these differences that are seen are simply because of the choices and expectations that we have for small children. Boys choose blue because we give then a choice of blue or green. Girls cry easily because we rush to them when they scrape a knee.

This mentality of boys being so much more physical than girls especially drives me crazy because Ryann was such an active, physical little being herself. When people tell me 'oh just wait, now you're having a boy', all that translates to me is that they think Ryann was active . . . for a girl. That I am an inexperienced mother with a biased opinion of the capabilities of my child.

There are plenty of girls who play rough and dig in the mud just as there are numerous boys who prefer to sit inside and bake or play house. Jared and I like to think that we will encourage our children to be active and to use their imaginations, whatever form that might take. We want to encourage our kids to explore the interests that they naturally have. Discover their own talents and passions and interests.

I would like to think that it's an unintentional side effect of this gender-modeling, but I'm afraid that for some families it's not. In this world, and especially in this country, we have generations of men who cannot cry and whose sense of empathy is stunted and weak. Women who don't believe in their own capabilities, who can't envision what might be outside the box that society has set them in. Not all aspects of these gender roles are negative, but they have the tendency to create huge defecits in the personalities and abilities of the adults we all become. This is what I reject for my children.

I've recently found myself looking for a doll for Clifton. Early on, Ryann chose her preferred lovie and was never far from it. Dolly was her constant companion and soothed her like nothing else could. I like to think that Clifton will have something similar and I naturally imagine it being his own dolly.

And for all of my forceful talk of gender neutrality when children are young, I still worry about possible teasing or stares that unexpected choices might make. And most dollies are made specifically with little girls in mind. Therefore I was happy to discover Charlie. Although Charlie is already sold, I may attempt to recreate him myself. It's almost as though Clifton would have a pint-sized Daddy to tote around with him. And he's a bit more boy-ish than Ryann's choice.

The above pictures show : Dolly playing in the Capitol, riding in the car, and napping after moving boxes.
All pictures clearly show Ryann's handhold of choice, delicately fingering Dolly's ponytail.

The model for Clifton's Charlie, complements of Charlie & Nell.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Mother's Day Weekend

My favorite snacky-snack.

Noreen is now officially too spoiled to be content lounging directly on the hard deck.
He requires extra padding for his large bulk.
One of my Mother's Day presents, of which I failed to procure an
unwrapped picture (a long, whistle necklace with a wee bird perched atop).
My other presents were a tomato plant with proper planting accoutrements
as well as a zoo membership to our adorable Lincoln Children's Zoo. 

Vanilla blueberry cupcakes filled with lemon curd
topped off with orange lemon swiss buttercream. Scrumptious.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Baby Cookin' Update - 22

Twenty-Two Weeks                                           

Size of Baby - Papaya

Cravings - Avocado, eggs, breakfast burritos, cheese, pickles.

What is different this time around - Although I'm probably carrying high compared to the general populous, Clifton is sitting much lower than Ryann ever did. This usually makes it a bit easier to find shirts that fit, since I can actually wear a belt above my belly instead of having it up at my chin and maternity shirts have gathering towards the top of my belly, rather than trying to gather around my belly button.

Symptoms - The heartburn has started up again. I've never in my life had a problem with heartburn, but I started to experience it at around the halfway mark with Ryann. It got worse and worse as she grew larger and larger, but the minute she was out the heartburn was gone. It's started up right on time with Clifton and I'm looking forward to his exodus in large part for the joy of having my digestive system back to myself. I've also started to have trouble with a pinched nerve in my right hip. This is not sciatic pain (which I do get once in a while) but just a stubborn nerve that only seems to flare up if I dare to sit or stand for more than two hours at a time. Graduation weekend was not kind to it. I've been doing a fair amount of granny-walking in the past week or so.

Appointments - We just had a routine checkup on Friday to be measured and hear the heartbeat. It was interesting to hear all of the sounds on the doppler. As Clifton grows, so does his placenta, which is attached right across the front of my belly and does a pretty good job at blocking his movements and his heartbeat from prying outsiders. We were finally able to hear past the loud whooshing of the placenta and were happy to be reassured by his strong, steady heartbeat, this time accompanied by a ridiculous amount of squirming, kicking, and punching. I think we have another wild-child in the works. I can't say I'm disappointed.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Pregnant Supper

Last night's supper on the deck. Pickles, cheese, pear, and a blueberry muffin.
The coffee is Jared's. Coffee still tastes like death to me.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Clifton Sumner

Little Clifton left us with no doubt that he's on the way and not Ava. We also think we see the beginning of Daddy's little duck-lips that show up when he's concentrating. I'm sure this is only one of the traits he'll share with his big sis, Ryann.

Just yesterday, Jared and I were talking about what a strange mix of experiences we're having and will be having. We're second-time parents and that comes with a fair bit of experience and calm. However, there will be no big sister coming to visit in the hospital. No juggling a toddler and an infant. And because of the trauma we went through with Ryann, I think we may always struggle with a hair-trigger panic that something is going very wrong.

It makes me so angry for the rest of our kids that they'll never get to know their sister for themselves. Losing Ryann has changed our entire family dynamic and it can make everything seem so out of control. We had purposely planned on being young parents. We wanted to have our third and final child before I turned 30, a timeline that is forever skewed. My body will now have to withstand four pregnancies (or five, if we hit a string of boys). The oldest sibling will now be a brother rather than a sister. And the memory of Ryann will always be present. A sibling not-there. A sister not-known. A life-unlived.

I miss my naive happiness. And as much as I can't wait to hold Clifton in my arms, sometimes I feel so guilty that he's being born into a fractured, half-healed home.